In the space of a few decades Hyundai Motors have gone from building cars based on western and Japanese car manufacturers to having its own luxury marque: Genesis, that challenges Lexus and Mercedes-Benz.
The Hyundai Grandeur was an executive saloon that they started making in 1986. It was basically a rebadged version of the Mitsubishi Debonair. The Debonair was a competitor to the Nissan Cedric and Toyota Crown. It was noticeable for having the same body style from 1964 to 1986. Hyundai built the a licensed version of the mark II Debonair.
Hyundai needed a domestic luxury car to ferry officials around in for the Seoul olympics in 1988. The focus on the Olympics was because Hyundai Motors had become an official sponsor. The Seoul olympics was put on to showcase how Korea had become a developed nation over the previous four decades.
The early Grandeur was a world away from Hyundai’s previous range topper, a rebadged version of the Ford Granada mark II.
Successive models of the Grandeur were the top of the range vehicles in the Hyundai Motors range until the arrival of the Hyundai Equus and Genesis. When the Genesis brand range was founded the Hyundai Grandeur reduced the number of markets were it was available to South Korea, China, the Middle East, Latin and South America (except Mexico).
Hyundai Genesis -> Genesis G80
The Genesis was originally designed as an interpretation of the modern rear-wheel drive sports saloon. It was evenly balanced and lighter than the BMW 5 series and Mercedes E class. It under performed in the US and Canadian market.
So when the mark II Hyundai Genesis was due to come to market; the company set up a new brand built around the car which became the Genesis G80 launched alongside the related but bigger G90.
Equus -> G90
Hyundai needed a car for its politicians and captains of industry so in 1999 it built its own version of the Mitsubishi Dignity. The Dignity is a lesser known known competitor to the Toyota Century. It was a Japan market only car that was only available for 15 months.
By comparison Hyundai’s Equus was made from 1999 to 2008 and sold in Korea, China and the Middle East. The second generation car took its cues more from Mercedes Benz. It became rear wheel drive, got air suspension and a variety of handling technologies.
The mark III became the G90, a competitor to Mercedes S-class. A high performance limousine with four wheel drive like a fully specced Mercedes limousine.
Hyundai extended the product line downwards with a sporting compact luxury saloon and hatchback. All wheel drive is offered as an option, indicating that Mercedes and Audi buyers are their target market.
GV70 and GV80
Finally they’ve rounded out the range with two SUVs. The GV70 is about the size of the Range Rover Velar and the GV80 is roughly the same size as a Range Rover Sport.
Differentiating a luxury car brand
It was 25 years since a luxury car brand had been successfully launched before Genesis. The comparisons with Lexus are obvious. Genesis has focused on getting a really high JD Power rating like Lexus did decades before.
The kind of high technology Hyundai has used to differentiate in other categories is a hygiene factor in the luxury space. Instead Genesis is focusing on the ownership experience. Its differentiator is that you get a leasing type experience even if you buy a new Genesis.